99Ironically, the second North Korean nuclear crisis has intensified and regularized high-level contacts between the DPRK and the PRC, despite the likelihood that these twoformer fraternal socialist brothers no longer see eye-to-eye on very much. China-DPRK trade relations have been stable and are arguably more important to North Korea’ssurvival than they were last year, as the DPRK’s procurement of high-end items fromJapan has dried up due to stricter Japanese border controls and restrictions on DPRK vessels. A more active PRC diplomacy toward North Korea – and China’s strong effortsto involve the DPRK in two rounds of six-party talks, have also been accompanied byChinese pledges to provide significant economic and energy assistance, including areported pledge to build a $50 million bottling plant in Pyongyang. The PRC has steppedup other forms of economic assistance to North Korea as an incentive to keep NorthKorea coming to the talks, even while contributing to Pyongyang’s isolation as it pursuesits nuclear program.The PRC and South Korea have maintained parallel positions toward North Korea’snuclear development efforts, agreeing that the DPRK must give up its nuclear program but focusing on making a deal with North Korea to give up its nuclear weaponsdevelopment efforts. In this respect, South Korea’s position is closer to China’s than thatof the U.S., but this similarity has not yet driven South Korea and China to jointly pursuetheir objectives, as South Korea continues to work in the context of trilateral coordinationwith the U.S. and Japan. The administration of ROK President Roh Moo-hyunappreciates Beijing’s constructive role as host and intermediary of the six-party talks, butmay secretly harbor some jealousy of China’s mediating role, a task that some Rohadvisors had aspired to play prior to President Roh’s election and inauguration. Another factor that has distanced Beijing and Seoul has been sporadic differences over China’shandling of North Korean refugees, most recently dramatized by reports that somerefugees were staging hunger strikes in Chinese detention facilities to protest their imminent forced return to North Korea. China’s economic and political influence haveincreased considerably over the course of the past year, as South Koreans believe thatChina is likely to be the most important country to the future of the Peninsula.
Contending national histories over who ‘owns’ Koguryo
With the establishment in March of the South Korean government-funded ResearchCenter for Koguryo History, there are now competing state-funded efforts in China andSouth Korea, respectively, to claim the Koguryo Dynasty (37 B.C.-A.D. 667) and theManchurian Balhae (Bo-hai) Kingdom (698-926) as part of Korean and Chinese nationalhistorical narratives, respectively. The Chinese-sponsored five-year “Northeast AsiaHistory Project” was launched in February 2002. This controversy was originallytriggered by a North Korean request to UNESCO seeking to add Koguryo mural paintings to the World Cultural Heritage list in 2001. While the DPRK request has beenheld up due to questions about the condition of the murals, the PRC requested UNESCOrecognition for Koguryo-era castles and tombs in spring 2003. PRC efforts drew a strongSouth Korean public reaction and criticism from South Korean NGOs regarding theSouth Korean government’s failure to stop the PRC from claiming Koguryo as part of itsown history. NGO criticisms were heightened following comments from Culture Minister